Today I was listening to a video by Healthy Prepper in which she shared the concept of dehydrating fruit and vegetables at their prime ripeness. She had just purchased many bags of price-reduced items. The groceries were beautiful, just really, really ripe. Studies reveal that 40% of food we purchase goes to waste. You can dehydrate almost any fruit or veggie, so there is no reason food should go to waste.
The SUNOVEN® is perfect for dehydrating produce. Green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, grapes and figs are in abundance in my refrigerator. Rather than hope that we’ll get around to eating them all before they spoil, I decided to begin a dehydrating project.
When dehydrating with the SUN OVEN®, focusing the oven into the sun is not necessary. The goal is to have a consistent temperature that ranges from 110º – 155º F. Keep the latches open for moisture and excess heat to escape. A higher temperature will effectively cook the produce rather than dry it. Use parchment paper and the racks provided with the oven. Drying time will vary depending on thickness. Try to be consistent so the pieces will dry at about the same rate. Check the oven from time to time to see how things are going. If your fruit or vegetables have not dried by the end of the day, simply leave them inside the SUN OVEN® over night. Collapse the reflectors and latch the door. The next day, resume drying with the door unlatched. For more details, watch our video on Dehydrating with the Sun Oven®.
After the produce has dried, there are a variety of ways to store them. The figs were packed in FoodSaver® bags and vacuum sealed. The Bay Laurel leaves, were stored in a plastic container. The tomatoes were stored in a glass jar with an oxygen absorber and vacuum sealed. What a great way to increase your food storage, reduce waste, and use the sun’s energy. What are you drying?
Other articles in the August 2014 Newsletter include:
The fig is the most talked about fruit in the Bible, referenced 43 times. The fig tree provided the first clothing mentioned and some suspect that the forbidden fruit might have been a fig rather than an apple. As a token of honor, figs were used as a training food by early Olympians, and were presented as laurels to winners like Olympic medals. At one time in Greece, they were regarded with such esteem that laws were established forbidding the export of the best quality figs. Mentioned in many Mediterranean writings, the fig is reported to have been the favorite fruit of Cleopatra, as the asp that ended her life was brought to her in a basket of figs.1 The fig tree is considered a symbol of abundance, fertility and sweetness. In Roman times, figs were considered to be restorative – to increase the strength of young people, to maintain the elderly in better health and to make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.2 Today, most of us think of the Fig Newton® when figs are mentioned. They first appeared commercially in 1891, made by the Kennedy Biscuit Works (later called Nabisco) using a machine that worked like a funnel inside a funnel, pumping out an endless cookie dough filled with fig jam.3
Figs are a highly prized and nourishing fruit that has been used to treat every known disease since ancient times. They can provide phenomenal amounts of energy and vitality to a body as well as aid in the repair and restoration of many bodily systems. As one of the most alkaline fruits available, they are rich in readily assimilative minerals, like calcium and potassium.4 They are a decadent treat when in season and can be dried or processed into jam so the pleasure can last all year.
This year our fig tree yielded enough fruit for us to make 18 pints of jam, provided enough figs to feed at least twenty families in our community and we’re still eating fresh ones every day. We save washed, 18 – egg cartons for storage to minimize mashing. For jam, you can crush figs or cook them whole. Make sure to remove any hard stems. Place 8 quarts of figs in a large pot, add 1 quart of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add a lemon or two thinly sliced and 2 cups of sugar. Simmer, uncovered for up to three hours, or until compote is reduced to half volume and thickened. Return it to a boil and add one large package of raspberry jello, boiling for one minute. Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars, cover with lids and screw on bands. Process 10 minutes, submerged in a boiling water bath. Yields 10 pints.
Billie Nicholson, editor
Other articles in the August 2014 Newsletter include:
Are you growing your own vegetables and fruit or do you need to purchase them from grocery stores? The U. S. Department of Agriculture tests produce every year. Do you know that 65% of produce samples in recent tests contained pesticide residue?
After analyzing the data from USDA and FDA tests, the Environmental Working Group has produced a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ containing test results from 48 popular fruits and vegetables. This report classifies those with the most pesticides as the “Dirty Dozen PLUS™”. The most contaminated fruits are Peaches, Apples, Nectarines, Strawberries and Grapes.The vegetables include Sweet Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Spinach, Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Snap Peas, Potatoes, Celery and Kale/Collard Greens.
Of note, all the nectarines and 99% of the apples tested positive for at least one form of pesticide; and a single sample of grapes tested positive for fifteen pesticides. The average potato sample tested more positive for pesticides by weight than any other food. If these are favorites on your list, consider buying organically grown. Kale/Collard Greens and Hot Peppers tested positive for pesticides that are toxic to the human nervous system.
The report also includes a list of produce with the least pesticide concentration, they are referred to as the “Clean Fifteen™”. The least contaminated fruit are Avocados, Pineapples, Mangoes, Kiwi, Papayas, Watermelon, Grapefruit and Cantaloupe. The veggies include Onions, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Cabbage, Eggplant and Sweet Potatoes. Avocados were the cleanest and over 80% of pineapples, kiwi, papayas and mango had no pesticide residue.
Use this report to shop smarter as you enjoy healthy fruit and vegetables in your diet. Remember to peel or wash them well before eating.
Apple harvest time this year produced lots of fruit. We canned slices, made apple sauce and dried some. The SunOven® works well as a fruit dehydrator. First we set the SunOven® outside, but not focused on the sun. We wanted a slight preheat but to less than 100º. Apples were washed and aligned in a Norpro “Apple Master”, an apple peeler, corer, and slicer. A few turns of the handle made quick work of the first apple. Slide the apple spiral slices off the core and place them on a cutting board.
Slice the spiral in half. Place the apple slices in a solution of water and Fruit Fresh® ascorbic acid (follow directions on bottle) to keep the slices from turning dark.
Cover the drying racks with parchment paper and drain apple slices. Line them up on the racks. Carefully arrange the racks inside the SunOven®. Leave the door latches under the glass door to allow air flow and keep the temperature low inside. We turn the oven so it is behind the sun track. Check at the end of the day. If not completely dry, latch and leave over night. Finish the next day. When slices are dry, remove from racks and pack into a clean glass jar. Add an oxygen absorber and pull a vacuum with a Food Saver® or by hand with a clean brake bleeder. Store cool and dark.
November 2013, Every Needful Thing Billie A. Nicholson, editor
This lovely fall dessert is good served warm or chilled.
Sun Oven Slow Cooked Apple Stacks
(adapted for the Sun Oven from the L.A. Times)
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
4 apples, peeled
6 Sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional sugar for topping
1 tablespoon flour
Over the years that I’ve been using my Global Sun Oven I’ve come up with countless creative ways of stacking all sorts of baking pans to make the most of the space in the cooking chamber. Some attempts were more successful than others; the main issue was always slippage.
In fact, apart from a batch or two of tomatoes per year, I’d pretty much given up on solar food dehydrating. It was just too much hassle to fit enough stuff in the Sun Oven to justify tying up it for a whole day.
So, of course, as soon as I received my set of Sun Dry Dehydrating Racks I had to put them to the test. So what if it was already noon and the only produce I had on hand were three tiny apples. I had a new toy and I wanted to play with in now. Turns out I only had enough fruit for two layers and enough remaining hours of sunlight to get the job half done (I finished up the next day), but I could see right off the bat the slippage was a thing of the past.
The racks fit snuggly on top of each other and leave plenty of room for airflow allowing both layers to dry out at the same rate. The hardest part is keeping the Sun Oven from overheating, get distracted for too long and it will easily reach 200F or more, even with the glass door propped open. It’s a good idea to set a timer and check on it every half hour or so.
This fruit sauce makes a good side for pork chops, or can be topped with whipped cream for an easy dessert. It’s also good on vanilla ice-cream or on it’s own as a snack. Pretty much any kind of apples or pears can be used so get the ones that are on sale.
Solar Apple-Pear Sauce
2 pounds Jonagold apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 pounds Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch kosher salt
Set Global Sun Oven out to preheat.
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and cook in Sun Oven until fruit is softened, about 1 hour. Remove cinnamon stick and mash fruit with a potato masher.
Makes 6 cups.